No, Tom Daley, Lemon Water Doesn’t Give You Abs

Medically reviewed by Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE on January 12, 2016Written by Kareem Yasin on January 12, 2016

A glass of lemon water every morning will give you abs. At least that’s what everyone’s favorite British diver Tom Daley is saying. In a new video, the shirtless Olympian claims that squeezing the juice out of one lemon and mixing it with (preferably warm) water every morning can help you attain a stomach you can grate cheese on.

So, is a glass of lemon water all you need to attain the six pack of your dreams?

We asked nutrition experts to break down the diminutive diver’s claims about the ab-sculpting abilities of lemons, and guide us through exactly why they’re (mostly) wrong:

1. Lemon Water Tricks Your Body Into Feeling Full

Lemons contain pectin fiber, and Daley says it’s this pectin that tricks his body into feeling full, so he doesn’t get as many cravings. But while the beverage might be filling him up, it’s certainly not because of fiber.

“If you're hoping to get some pectin fiber by drinking lemon juice, you're out of luck, since juice is a fiber-free beverage,” says Andy Bellatti, M.S., R.D. “Here's the important part: you need to eat the actual fruit. You'll find it in apples, peaches, apricots, and oranges, to name a few.”

“By squeezing the juice into the water, you aren't getting the fiber,” notes Delish Knowledge’s Alex Caspero, M.A., R.D. At most, the juice of one lemon might get you 0.1 gram of fiber — a far cry from the 25-35 grams you need per day. “Any bits of lemon that you do end up drinking is not going to be enough fiber to fill you up, especially to forgo breakfast.”

The Verdict: False.

2. Lemon Water Flushes Out Toxins

In the video, Daley also claims that using warm water instead of cold water helps to flush out the toxins from your body. Sadly, that’s not true, either.

“The idea that one particular food or beverage ‘washes out toxins’ is completely erroneous,” says Bellatti. “The body gets rid of whatever it doesn't need via the kidneys, liver, lungs, and skin.”

And while it’s true that lemons contain antioxidants — which help to stabilize the highly reactive, unpaired electrons we refer to as free radicals — Caspero notes that the amount present in one lemon is a fairly small serving.

The Verdict: False.

3. Lemon Water Fights Off Illness

In the video, Daley claims that lemon water’s vitamin C content can be an immunity booster. This is certainly true, as lemon juice does contain vitamin C, which is important for immune function. Most adults need between 75 and 90 mg of vitamin C per day to keep their bodies healthy and their immune symptoms functioning. The juice of one lemon gets you 18.6 mg, which is pretty decent for a single beverage.

“But you can get vitamin C from many fruits and vegetables,” notes Bellatti. “There is nothing special about lemons or lemon juice.”

The Verdict: True.

Ask the Experts: Is Juicing Good for You? »

4. Lemon Water Is Great for Your Skin

Daley also posits that lemon water can get rid of acne as well as wrinkles. Well, while lemons do contain some vitamin C, they don’t contain anywhere near enough to meet your recommended daily amount — let alone enough to slow down signs of aging and get rid of spots.

For preventing wrinkles, quality protein and fat are essential to maintaining healthy skin, says Caspero. “Vitamin C is essential in collagen production, but again, we are talking about a small amount of lemon juice.”

The Verdict: False.

5. Lemon Water Is an Energy Booster

Daley also claims that lemon water can boost your energy. In case you were still skeptical, this is also not a particularly science-based assessment. “Energy can only come from calories,” says Caspero. And calories come from food, not water with a squeeze of lemon.

“While water can make you feel more alert, especially if you are dehydrated, it technically will not provide any energy in the form of calories.”

The Verdict: False.

6. Lemon Water Is an Antidepressant

“It reduces anxiety and depression, and even the scent of the lemons themselves have a calming effect on the nervous system,” says Daley. Your mileage may vary on that one, but it looks like the swimmer might actually be on the right track here!

Aromatherapy can do wonders for stress, and studies show that inhaling vapor infused with lemon essential oil can have stress-reducing and antidepressant effects. Adding more vitamin C to your diet can also have a positive impact on anxiety and depression, as one study has shown. While the effects of one squeezed lemon are likely to be minimal compared to lemon essential oil aromatherapy and a vitamin C-intensive diet, they’re still there!

The Verdict: True.

The Takeaway

“Yes, lemon juice is a great source of vitamin C and contains health-promoting flavonoids, but that doesn't merit all the magical properties it has recently acquired,” says Bellatti. “While it is true that abs are ‘made in the kitchen,’ that does not mean that one particular food or beverage can ‘give’ you abs.”

“Let's also remember that this advice comes from an Olympic athlete whose entire career depends on an intense training regime and a very carefully balanced diet.”

Squeezing lemon juice into a glass of water certainly won’t hurt you, and will at the very least keep you hydrated. But the only proven method of shedding excess pounds and defining your abdominal muscles is one you’re already quite well aware of: regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Lose Weight the Right Way: A 20-Minute Workout »

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